Every draft has its risers and fallers. Some are able to raise their game at important times, taking their draft stock with them, while others falter when it matters most.
If you were to slot USHL standout Dylan Larkin into one of those two categories, it would have to be the former.
The sturdy 6-foot, 172-pound pivot has upped everything about his game in 2013-14, including his scoring. Larkin had 17 points in 37 USHL games last season, but has come to play in a big way this year with 11 goals and 19 points in 18 games. An increase in scoring was foreshadowed at the end of last season when he notched two goals and seven points in six games for the United States at the World U-17 tournament. This swell in offensive production from one year to the next is a direct result of hard work and determination, according to Larkin.
“The work I put in in the offseason [helped me a lot with] getting stronger and being able to get to the gritty areas and get rebounds,” said the 17 year old.
Along with building up strength and power, Larkin has also been making adjustments on the ice to better his chances in and around the offensive zone.
“I’ve been working on my shot a lot, and trying to position myself to take shots and pick corners,” added Larkin.
All these ameliorations amalgamate into improving Larkin day by day—both on and off the ice—and further shaping the type of player he is. What type is that?
“I would say a skilled power forward,” said Larkin, describing himself.
Such a description is echoed by Future Considerations scout Andrew Weiss.
“Larkin has shown he can be an elite-level power forward in addition to showing a high level of offensive ability,” Weiss said. “His ability to take the puck hard to the net allows for unique scoring chances most players would not be able get because of a lack of size and strength.”
Weiss adds that such a mixture of size and skill will have the American pivot in big demand come the draft in June.
“Out of all the power forwards available, Dylan Larkin is definitely the safest pick and could very well be the most sought after come June,” said Weiss.
No player has a perfect game at 17, however, and Larkin admits there are some areas he’s working on to improve.
“[I’m still] working on getting stronger,” reiterated Larkin. “You can always get stronger and it’ll help me a lot moving forward with my game, going into college.”
Larkin comfortably rests at 15 on Future Considerations’ ranking for the 2014 NHL Draft. Not only that, but he is also the highest of five USHL skaters ranked. Larkin’s dominant draft-eligible season has him situated as the highest-ranked American skater.
With such recognition does, however, come pressure, but that’s not something Larkin is feeling or thinking about.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” said Larkin. “I’m not projected to be a first overall pick or anything, so I just try to block it out and play my game every night.”
That strategy appears to be working well for the up-and-coming forward, who will continue to employ it as he makes his way through the rest of the season—turning heads and making good impressions along the way.